As Wladimir Klitschko gets set to again defend his lineal heavyweight title against Tony Thompson this Saturday, it is safe to say that the threat to Klitschko's dominance in boxing’s glamour division is not under imminent threat.
The reality of Klitschko's dominance is further buttressed by older brother and WBC champion Vitali’s defense against the relatively obscure Manuel Charr on September 8th. It is easy and fashionable to undermine the Klitschko brothers by ridiculing the quality of their opposition, and there are plenty of dissenters.
However, at this point, if boxing wants to move towards restoring the luster of the heavyweight division, it behooves fans and media to direct their collective attention towards the up-and-coming big men who can either supplant the Klitschko brothers or usher in a competitive era when the dominant Ukrainian siblings retire.
With that said, it is time to focus on one gargantuan heavyweight who seems on track to either competitively challenge the Klitschko brothers or carry their championship torch.
England’s David Price (13-0, 11 KOs), 28, has all the tools necessary to be an elite heavyweight. The only question is whether he can follow through and fulfill his promise.
Price has every physical attribute and intangible you look for in an elite heavyweight. At 6’8" and weighing in—consistently—at around 245 pounds, Price’s chiseled physique rivals that of either Klitschko.
In an era where super-sized heavyweights have largely supplanted 200-plus pounders who rely on skill and athleticism, having the requisite size is the first attribute necessary to compete or surpass the Klitschko brothers.
Having size, however, isn’t enough to guarantee success. As 2008 Olympic bronze medalist for Great Britain, Price combines his physical attributes with well-schooled boxing grounded in an excellent amateur pedigree.
Inside the ring, Price exhibits poise and maturity that belies his relatively modest 13-fight professional record. Price displays an excellent jab, and his ability to control range through intelligent ring-generalship seems advanced.
Perhaps Price’s greatest equalizer is his one-punch knockout power, especially in his right hand. Price effectively works his straight right off of his jab, and his reach allows him to land the thudding blow from a relatively safe distance. Deft balance and coordination contribute to Price’s power, and he has the ability to mix in a variety of hooks and combinations to supplement his more conventional, straight shots.
Despite only 13 professional fights, Price has faced quality domestic competition, and he seems poised to soon overrun the European level. Price’s last three wins have been over Tom Dallas (16-3, 12 KOs), John McDermott (27-8, 18 KOs) and Sam Sexton (15-3, 6 KOs) with each victory coming via devastating knockout.
While all three men were considered durable and legitimate, Price’s victory over McDermott was especially vindicating as Price one-upped the result of rival and countryman Tyson Fury, who had arguably lost to McDermott in their first fight before being extended nine rounds in their rematch.
Price bested Fury in the amateurs. A showdown between the heavyweight prospects would be a massive draw in England and a legitimately significant heavyweight fight. Given how devastating Price has looked since stepping up in class, it is reasonable to suspect that with consistent activity he will soon be, at least based on talent, a top 10 heavyweight.
Causes for Concern
Boxing’s glamour division carries such tremendous appeal because of the old adage that one punch can alter the entire the landscape of a fight, or even end it.
While Price has thus far passed all of his professional tests brilliantly, it remains unclear as to how well he takes a punch, or whether he can fight back under extreme duress. In a perfect and naïve world, a boxer would never have to test these intangibles.
However, with the reality of the Klitschko brothers and other heavyweights who could pass as NBA power forwards, Price’s chin, eventually, will be put to the test.
In the Olympics, Price’s semifinal bout against eventual gold medalist Roberto Cammarelle of Italy was stopped in the second round, but this high-profile defeat hardly seems like sufficient evidence to suggest that Price has a glass jaw. Granted, I am not aware of Price’s entire amateur record, but the fact remains that his chin has not failed him thus far as a professional.
Price has had quality sparring against the Klitschko brothers, and while this is certainly positive and invaluable for his development, it remains to be seen what will happen when an elite heavyweight tags him during a high-stakes fight.
The other stumbling block impeding Price’s rise to the championship level is his somewhat sporadic activity. Price and his team have been in negotiations to ink a deal with Sky Sports, but the network’s decision to oust Price’s handler, Frank Maloney, in favor of promoter Eddie Hearn has left Price in limbo as he remains devoted to his current promotional outfit.
Sky Sports surely has the budget to work with Price, and we can only remain hopefully that petty logistics won’t stand in the way of the young heavyweight getting the exposure he deserves.
With speculation that Price might make an American debut, the only thing standing in the Liverpool man’s way is the business of boxing. The questions about Price’s chin will be answered soon enough, and if he grades out, expect the heavyweight title to soon find its way back to Britain.